When Siri got a toothache, she put Paracet in the crater...

– I treat no one to go through the same as I have done, says Siri Tuft Lundemoen. She was eventually rushed to hospital with tooth decay.

– The problems with my teeth only got bigger and bigger the older I got. But I could not afford to go to the dentist, says Siri Tuft Lundemoen. Photo: Marita Aarekol

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Siri Tuft Lundemoen (51) sits on the sofa in her apartment and smiles gently. She says that she has great pain in a wisdom tooth, jaw inflammation and sinusitis, and that she has been trying to numb the pain with medication for almost three months.

– The problems with my teeth only got bigger and bigger the older I got. In my mid-30s, toothache started to come more often, but I could not afford to go to the dentist. When I became disabled, the most important thing was clothes for the children and food on the table.

Several thousand kroner

Lundemoen is just one of several Norwegians who say they can not afford to go to the dentist.

In a recent living conditions survey from Statistics Norway, five percent answered that they could not go to the dentist due to poor finances.

In Norway, the dental health service is divided into two parts – a public and a private part. The public part of the dental health service offers free or partially subsidized services to priority groups. (See fact box).

A regular examination at the dentist is around 1000 kroner.

If you have to pull a tooth, it costs between 1000 and 1600 kroner. If you have to fill in the roots, it can quickly cost well over 4000 kroner, figures from various dental clinics show.

– The face was twice as big

For Lundemoen, it peaked last summer when she got extreme pain in a tooth she had had pain for two years.

– I tried not to stop with the paracetamol that I pushed down into the crater. It was open right down to the nerves. Other times I used Paralgin forte or dipped a q-tip with vodka down the hole.

But it only got worse and worse. Finally, she had to go to the dentist for help. The bill came to 1000 kroner.

– It went beyond the food budget, but I had no choice. They pulled what was left of the tooth. The bacterial mass splashed and ran. The next morning I had so much pain in my face that I did not know where to turn. My face had grown twice as big. The swelling reached slightly above the temple. And it looked like it was about to burst, she says.

This is what Siri Tuft Lundemoen (51) looked like when she was rushed to hospital after she pulled a tooth with pain last summer. Photo: Private

Over 60,000 members

Next to her sits the retired dentist Terje Mikkelsen and follows closely.

– After running my own dental practice for almost 50 years, I have seen many human tragedies because they have not been able to afford to go to the dentist, he says.

After the summer, he decided to do something for them and created the group “Dentistry / Finance”. The group now has over 60,000 members.

– As it is now, it is unworthy. I have seen people use chewing gum where they lack teeth for them to dare to go out. Others have come in with tooth stumps, where sharp edges have cut into the tongue and made inflamed wounds.

The goal of the group is to equate the dental health service with the health service, so that everyone can afford to go to the dentist.

– Diseases of the mouth, teeth and jaw are as much disease as otherwise in the body. But when one is treated by a dentist, the patient has to pay for it himself.

– It will cost society a lot, but it is just something that must be done. If you cover 40 percent of the amount, it will also help considerably.

From left Linda Moen, Siri Tuft Lundemoen and Terje Mikkelsen are administrators in the FB group Dental treatment / finance. Photo: Fred Ivar Utsi Klemetsen

The Facebook group Dental treatment / finance has over 60,000 members. Siri Tuft Lundemoen is one of the administrators in the group. Photo: Marita Aarekol

Want politicians on the field

Siri Tuft Lundemoen became a member of the group a few days after it was established. She is currently one of the administrators.

– I’m very concerned about justice. I myself do not have many whole teeth left up. And there are holes in everyone. Sometimes the lip also gets stuck between the teeth because there are so uneven edges. There is nothing special to smile when it looks like that, says Lundemoen, who has gradually also developed dental anxiety.

– Now the politicians must get on the field. The dental association has also been too weak here, Mikkelsen adds.

– We also want to look at whether it should be opened up for socio-economic reasons to have benefits for dental treatment covered, says president of the Norwegian Dental Association, Camilla Hansen Steinum. Photo: Kristin Aksnes, Tidende

Wants strengthening of dental health service

Public funding currently amounts to around six billion kroner, according to the president of the Norwegian Dental Association, Camilla Hansen Steinum. She says they have been working for increased public funding of the dental health service for many years.

– We want both a strengthening of the public dental health service and a strengthening and expansion of the National Insurance benefit scheme, which provides benefits to patients with different diagnoses – both medical and dental, she says and adds:

– We believe that as long as the funds are limited, they must be prioritized and targeted at the patients who have the greatest need.

She says that they continuously work with the authorities and other decision-makers, and that for years they have demanded a comprehensive review of the dental health service, both organization and financing.

Tellef Inge Mørland (Labor Party) believes the Facebook group shows that the case means something to many. – It is a popular and easy way to make visible a commitment that we politicians get with us, he says. Photo: Labor Party

– Fully possible to achieve over time

Dental health policy spokesperson for the Labor Party (Labor Party), Tellef Inge Mørland, thinks it is good that people get involved.

– When people with poor finances can not afford the necessary dental health treatment, it ruins their lives in the worst case. Social life is limited, and it can limit job opportunities. That’s how we can not have it, he writes in an e-mail.

In the Labor Party’s alternative budget, the party will spend half a billion on raising the age limit for free dental treatment and introducing support schemes for those with poor finances.

– Is it possible to equate the dental health service with other health services?

– Equating dental health with other dental health services will cost. But I think it is entirely possible to achieve over time, if it is given high enough political priority, says Mørland.

He points out that the current government went the opposite way when last year they cut 100 million for braces for children.

Sveinung Stensland (H) believes that Facebook groups are well suited to create engagement and attention around issues. – Sometimes it can be demanding to balance the sum of all the measures different groups work for, he says. Photo: Vidar Ruud

Will cost around 12 billion a year

According to the Conservative Party’s health policy spokesman, Sveinung Stensland, it will cost NOK 12 billion a year to equate the dental health service with health services if everyone is to be included.

In comparison: Public health expenditure was NOK 317 billion in 2019.

– Today, dental treatment is free for one in four inhabitants. If it is to apply to the entire population, it must be cut elsewhere in the health services. It is not realistic to expand the welfare state when in the future we will struggle to maintain the one we already have, Stensland writes in an e-mail.

Steinsland says the government has expanded the scheme for free dental health through various support schemes.

– Dental treatment costs. I have a great understanding that it is sour money, and that for some it is not possible to make ends meet. The welfare state may not be everything for everyone, but it should be there for those who need it most.

Siri Tuft Lundemoen is very active in the Facebook group. – Unfortunately, we become more poor and then dental health becomes a bigger problem. Photo: Marita Aarekol

Admitted for over a week

Siri Tuft Lundemoen says that the incident last summer has shocked her.

– As I said, my face was twice as big, and the pain was unbearable. The dentist who had pulled the tooth could not do anything. When I called my doctor, I was told to contact 113 immediately, Lundemoen says.

For the next three or four days, she remembers little, she says. She was admitted to Haukeland University Hospital for over a week.

The admission documents state, among other things, that the CT showed inflammation in the tissue around the right jaw angle with several infections.

– It was absolutely awful

– The infection had gone into the bloodstream. There were four operations, blood poisoning, scraping of bacteria, drain and morphine. It was absolutely awful.

Today she struggles with chronic toothache and inflammation. But this summer, she was told that she now has her dental treatment covered via the county municipality due to the fear of dentists.

– I do not treat people to go through what I have done. With larger differences, the case is even more important. Unfortunately, we become more poor and then dental health becomes a bigger problem.

Published

Published: November 23, 2020 1:01 PM

Updated: November 23, 2020 1:30 PM

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